Ideal Evening Routine In Medical School

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One of my popular blog posts is about my morning routine in medical school. Ever since that post I often get feedback about others trying to wake up earlier or at least do one non-medical thing in the morning. I’m glad the post resonated with many of you. Now it’s time to focus on the last few hours of your day. What does the ideal evening routine in medical school look like?
First, we must acknowledge that we suck at planning the end of our day. To be fair many of us are tired after studying or finishing clinical duties. Still, the evening hours often consist of doing as much as we can with the energy we have left. If you’re lucky you may sneak in some leisure time before bed.
If we continue to have unstructured evenings, then we’re more likely to wake up the latest we’re allowed to, and continue our days with great inefficiency. In this post, I’ll discuss how to end your day as well as you started it. This has worked wonders for me and has kept me motivated to remain as consistent as possible.
Pick a few components from my evening routine you may like and adapt them into your own. I’ve also included what my evening routine looked like when I was on my pediatrics rotation.
Let’s begin (or end) shall we?

Don’t Work an Hour Before Bed:

This piece of advice I developed talking to a classmate who has a completely opposite schedule from me. I’m an early riser while she studies late into the night.
Are either one of us right? No. Do what works for you.
Still, she asked how I was able to wake up so early. She often studied and went to bed exhausted. Waking up early for her didn’t make sense.
I told her that I rarely studied prior to going to bed. In fact, I’d often give myself an hour or more to relax before calling it a day. By the time I was in bed, I was already relaxed and required less sleep than if I had slept immediately after finish my work.
I understand this may not work every day. There are days where you’ll have to work close to bedtime and others where you’ll get home late into the evening. Make it a habit to space out your sleep from work as best as you can. You’ll find that you’ll need sleep and be more energized (and motivated) in the morning.

Spend Time to Read:

I’ve taken this tip to a different level recently. I’d occasionally read every now and then before bed. Now I’m spending an hour.
The effects? I’ve finished over 10 books in the last 2 weeks! Not all of it has been in the evening, but a significant portion has.
Perhaps it’s because many of my favorite shows just had their season finales. Plus all the sports I care for are on a hiatus. Still, reading has made me much more relaxed to complete my evening routine in medical school.
It doesn’t have to be a book. Magazines, online articles, you name it (just not your syllabus).
If you’re someone that says, “I wish I had more time to read” or “I’ve only read one book this year.” then this tip is for you. Just try it for one week. You’ll be amazed by how much you finish in the 30-60 minutes before bed.

Do 1 House Chore:

I badly needed this one.
I’ve previously tried to dedicate a day where I do common house chores (laundry, vacuum, etc.) but this rarely happens.
On a clinical schedule, this is even less likely.
So now I pick one thing to do before I go to bed.
If there are dishes in the sink, I’ll wash them or throw them into the dishwasher (don’t judge me). If my laundry is stacking up then I’ll start a load as I have dinner.
Sometimes it’s as simple as throwing the trash out. Regardless, this small trick has prevented me from even needing a dedicated chores day. Now I have time to go crazy and clean my desk (agan don’t judge me).
Pick one small thing every evening and you’ll enjoy the constant feeling of cleanliness you wake up to.

Call Friend/Family:

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I Skype home almost every day. It’s become second nature to call home at 9PM. If I don’t call, my mom will make it easy and call me. I’m thus forever trapped in this habit. 😉
Let’s be honest, when you’re on the medical journey it can be easy to be a jerk and distance yourself from loved ones. Yes we are busy we can manage a 5-10 minute call home.
I have respect for my classmates who are married and/or have kids. They have no choice but to make time for their loved one. Often they’re some of the most successful students I know.
So end your day off right – call (not text) the people that care.

Focus on You:

This goes back to the first tip. If you shouldn’t work right up till bedtime then what should you do?
Whatever you want. Just separate yourself from your obligations as a medical student and enjoy the freedom of being a free human.
You can pick up a book, as I’ve become more likely to do. You can binge your favorite show guilt-free.
Be flexible, be creative, and routinely change up what you do with these last few hours. You’ll cherish them more and more with every year of medical school you conquer.

Plan Out the Next Day:

I’m a big proponent (dork) about planning our your day. While some planning is better than none, planning effectively the day before makes you a superstar.
I prefer to have a plan of attack when I wake up. If I have to spend some time to create a plan, that’s fine but slightly inefficient. I work the best in the mornings. So it’d make sense to not have to spend time on a task that doesn’t require much mental effort.
Plan your days the night before. It’s not hard. Plus you’re likely to be more honest about how much you can do. This is also a good way to remind yourself of any important events that are taking place which you may have forgotten.
Write it down somewhere. I’ve talked about how I write down my schedule and how I enter it into my calendar here.
Have it waiting for you on your desk the next morning and you’ve set yourself up well to succeed.

Prepare for the Next Day

Slightly different than planning. This includes the small things such as preparing your lunch, setting out your clothes, and having your supplies ready to go.
It’s often when we’re in a rush where we ruin our days. You may have forgotten your lunch or your charger. Both are enough to dampen your day.
If you don’t prepare to succeed then you’re preparing to fail.
Sample of Evening Routine during Clinical Rotations:
5-6 PM: Get home
6-6:30 PM: Dinner
6:30-8:30 PM: Complete day’s readings and questions. Read up on patients.
8:30-9 PM: 1 House Chore
9-9:15: Call Home
9:15-10:30: Relax, read, get ready for the next day.
Your schedule may have you arriving home earlier or later. Adjust accordingly and on a per day basis. Just make the most of your last few hours.
Hope you enjoyed this post! Have a little bit more time before I begin my surgery rotation. My goal is to have two more posts out before then.
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Until next time…

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